Melissa Rudd: Canaries must learn again the art of battling back from behind
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
There is an air of inevitability around when Norwich City concede first.
It has become progressively thicker the longer this winless streak has continued. On Sunday it was more noticeable than ever.
You only had to watch the players' heads drop after Scott McTominay put Manchester United into the lead with more than three quarters of the game left to realise it was going to be as much of a mental challenge as it would be a physical one for City to get back into the match.
Norwich haven't come from behind to win since doing so against Bristol City in February. Ironically, the same amount of time United had gone without an away win in the Premier League.
It's a statistic that is slightly skewed given City were dominant for the majority of the last few months of their Championship title-winning campaign. They became used to scoring first. Perhaps that's why they have found it impossible to reverse a scoreline so far this campaign.
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What made Sunday so difficult to watch was that for a second home game running City didn't force the opposition to work hard for any of their goals. This was a United side who had scored three goals on the road in their previous six games. If it wasn't for Tim Krul they would have bettered that tally in the first half alone at Carrow Road.
It's funny how before this season started many were questioning whether Krul was good enough to start in the Premier League week in week out, with a few identifying him as the weak link in the side. Yet so far this campaign he's been the club's most consistent performer. Only Bernd Leno has made more saves in the league than Krul, and he's played two games more.
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The Dutchman's two fantastic penalty saves energised a somewhat subdued home crowd that was for the first time subjected to lengthy VAR checks. For two 'clear and obvious' mistakes it took a mighty long time for both decisions to be overturned.
Ultimately, though, Daniel Farke's side couldn't blame anyone but themselves for another defeat and defensive horror show. It may sound a tired cliché, but mistakes at this level are punished. It's a lesson Norwich are learning the hard way.
Todd Cantwell's failed clearance was jumped on by McTominay for the opener. Then for United's second there were only six touches of the ball between Jamal Lewis' misplaced pass in the final third and Krul picking it out of his net. Marcus Rashford's deft touch and finish ended what was a slick counter-attack, but quite how the England forward found himself in acres of space bearing down on goal without a defender either side of him was alarming.
Another intercepted one-two, this time between Marco Steipermann and Emi Buendia, led to the visitors' third. The latter was still leaping about in frustration when Anthony Martial poked the ball home. It didn't make for pretty viewing... little did.
In his post-match interview, Farke admitted Norwich weren't physical enough in the first half. However hard done by he may feel by injuries to his players, there is no excuse for them showing a lack of fight. Norwich, though, have won the least amount of aerial duels in the whole division (115). Fellow promoted rivals Sheffield United have won the most - double that amount. That is something they have to improve on.
One bright spot on an otherwise gloomy Sunday evening was the contribution of Onel Hernandez. City have sorely missed the Cuban's directness. He may run down a few blind alleys, but Hernandez is the only player in the squad who can run at defences at pace.
No other individual in the team would have scored a goal like his against the calibre of the defenders he bypassed before rifling it past David de Gea. He will surely start at Brighton on Saturday.